When you ask people why they don’t share the gospel, they usually respond with something revolving around fear. However, another prominent reason people don’t share the gospel revolves around another four-letter word: love.
That may seem strange, but allow me to explain.
The English language has only one word for love, but we use it to mean different things. You can say that you love your wife and love your mom, and in the same sentence you can say you love football or french fries. Of course, the way in which you love each of those is different, but you use the same word for each one.
Other languages have multiple words for love, including koine Greek, which is the language of the ancient Greeks and the language in which the New Testament was written. koine Greek has four different words for love.
- Eros – sensual, romantic love. The word became so tied to sexual immorality by the ancient Greeks that it is not found in the New Testament but found through classic literature and Greek mythology.
- Storge – family love. The word itself is not in the New Testament, but we see the concept with Mary and Martha’s love for their brother Lazarus.
- Philio – mutual affection between friends. It is used in the New Testament to describe the mutual affection that Christians should have with each other.
- Agape – unconditional, sacrificial love. It describes the love that we are to have towards all people, even our enemies and those who mistreat us.
It is this fourth type of love that is so rare in our day, even in the church. It is a love that is not based on conditions, obligations, or reciprocation.
This type of love is found throughout the New Testament in the ministry of Christ and apostles. It is the type of love that:
- Compelled the apostles to share the gospel even in the midst of threats, persecution, and abuse.
- Motivated Stephen to pray to the Lord for the forgiveness of those who stoned Him in Acts 7.
- Lead Christ to say from the cross regarding those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Let’s face it, agape love is rare. Agape love is hard. But agape love is what God is asking believers to have for all people.
Do you find yourself struggling to love agape style? Here are some observations that may help.
Agape love is the type of love that God has for us
The love described in John 3:16 is agape love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” God’s love for us existed prior to sending Jesus and prior to us believing in Him. This means that He loved us while we were still in our sin, estranged from Him.
When you find yourself short on love for those who seem unlovable, remember that God loved you even when you were at odds with Him. God wanted our best even when we were at our worst. We should want the same for others. As 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
Agape love is not people pleasing, it is God pleasing
When some people hear “unconditional love”, they immediately think of acquiescing to the wishes of another person. That is not Biblical love. Agape love is rooted in what is best for the person, even if that means telling them the truth in love. It is not just telling them what they want to hear, it is telling them what they need to hear in love.
An example of this type of love is Stephen in Acts 7. His love for the religious leaders was rooted in His love and fear of the Lord. This motivated him to speak to them about the Lord and their rejection of Him. He did so unconditionally in that he loved them regardless of how they would take the message. This culminated in His final words before He died at their hands, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”
Sometimes we hesitate in sharing the gospel because we wonder how it will be received. That is not agape love. Agape love wants the best for the person, even if the best means they need to hear the truth of their need for a Savior.
Agape love is supernatural
Our selfish nature is a powerful force. It keeps us focused on ourselves and wants to respond in kind when we are encounter hostility, indifference, or disrespect.
The power of self is so great that we need a force greater than ourselves to overcome it. For example, in order for astronauts to travel to the moon, they had to overcome the power of gravity. To do this, they needed a force greater than gravity which they developed in rocket propulsion. Only then could they overcome gravity to accomplish their mission.
In the same way, we need a force greater than our selfish nature to accomplish our mission of loving and reaching people regardless of their situation or response. Only through the power of the person of the Holy Spirit are we able to do this.
Here are a few guidelines for prayer regarding how to love others better:
“Lord, help me to see people the way You see them.”
“Lord, help me love people the way You love them.”
“Lord, help me react to people in the way You would react.”
“Lord, give me the boldness to show your love to people and share the gospel regardless of how they react.”